Can Manchester City or Man United really win the Champions League?

Can Manchester City or Man United really win the Champions League?
From ESPN - February 13, 2018

Manchester City and Manchester United have both got their eyes on winning the Champions League this season.

City, in incredible form in the league, have never won Europe's top club prize; United, meanwhile, would be looking for a first since 2008 when they beat Chelsea on penalties in Moscow -- having lost twice in the final to Barcelona in 2009 and 2011.

But can the Manchester clubs challenge Europe's elite this season? We asked our club correspondents Jonathan Smith (City) and Rob Dawson (United).

MAN CITY:Confidence so high that it's a real possibility

If Lionel Messi believes City can win the Champions League, there is no reason why Pep Guardiola's players wo not believe exactly the same thing. The Argentine won the competition twice under Guardiola with Barcelona and is well aware that his former boss is building something special again at the Etihad Stadium.

Confidence is sky-high at City as they sit 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League after blowing away their title rivals. They have done it in a staggering, swaggering, sophisticated style with each of their rivals comfortably beaten -- Chelsea at Stamford Bridge; Manchester United at Old Trafford; Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool thrashed at home.

The only serious blip in the Premier League was a 4-3 defeat at Liverpool, but even that is the sort of scoreline that most of the European giants would probably settle for in a two-legged clash -- particularly if you are capable of securing a 5-0 win at home as City did in September.

One of the benefits of City's huge lead at the top of the Premier League is that if their form continues at its current pace, they will have the title mathematically wrapped up by April 7 -- days before the second leg of a possible Champions League quarterfinal. That means Guardiola will be able to throw his complete focus and all his assets at Europe in the final seven weeks of the season and put out a weakened team in the league.

Of course, City still have to reach the last eight, but it would be a huge shock if they were to slip up at FC Basel as they could hardly have been handed a kinder draw. The Swiss champions wo not be a pushover, having showed their quality by beating United at St. Jakob-Park in the group stage, but they have sold top defender Manuel Akanji since and should not be able to cope with City's attacking power.

There will be high-profile casualties in the round of 16 with Real Madrid playing Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona vs. Chelsea, but Guardiola has been keen to play down expectations and insists City do not have the same European experience as their rivals -- they have gone beyond the last 16 only once, when they reached the semifinals in 2015 before a dismal exit at the hands of Real.

However, the reality is the continent's leading clubs will be hoping to avoid City at their best. With Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling in top form, they are a scary prospect -- Serie A's best team, Napoli, were well beaten home and away and those results will have had everyone taking notice.

Fatigue could be the biggest threat to City's hopes with injuries stretching Guardiola's squad. But should they progress into the later stages, some of his players could be coming back refreshed and at just the right time.

Gabriel Jesus has not played since the last day of 2017, David Silva has missed a number of matches for personal reasons and Leroy Sane is on the road to recovery after an ankle injury. Even Benjamin Mendy, out since September with a cruciate knee ligament injury, has vowed to be back in time for the semifinals.


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